Artists’ Studios | Martinez, Chmiel, Peterson

By Margaret L. Brown

L Eglise, Normandy by Len Chmiel.,painting, southwest art.
L’Eglise, Normandy by Len Chmiel.

Visiting an artist’s studio affords a glimpse into the heart of creativity. You may recognize the view out the window to a lush garden or a cragged mountain, having seen these images in the artist’s paintings. Examine the museum postcards taped to the wall or the pile of art books in the corner, and you’ll learn which painters or sculptors the artist studies and admires. In the studio, the creative process is revealed, from the stack of sketches leaning against a stool (and a few crumpled ones filling a trash can) to the work in progress resting on the easel.

In this issue, we visit three artists in their studios. Painter Miguel Martinez looks out on the Taos mountains, finding comfort in their steadfastness. Martinez feels a sense of his own history in this place, as his family has lived in Taos for more than 200 years. Much has changed in that time, yet Martinez says, “The crispness of the landscape, the colors, the shadows and light on adobe walls—these are all still the same.”

Len Chmiel’s studio is a small converted barn in Lafayette, CO. Inside is evidence that he spends much of his time away from it—paintings and sketches from his many travels fill the space. And Robert Peterson’s uncluttered studio in Santa Fe reflects the spare, orderly style of his still lifes. “I like to pay attention to my working space,” he says. “It’s like a sanctuary, a second home.”

This issue also contains an excerpt from the much-anticipated book California Impressionism by William H. Gerdts and Will South. In the excerpt, South describes the late 19th- and early 20th-century California Impressionists’ desire to “replicate nature, to convey its spiritual dimensions, and to infuse the landscape with political significance.” For these artists, plein-air painting was the heart of creativity—“a way of being profoundly involved with the environment that provided stimulation and inspiration often impossible for them to put into words.”

This season is a time for both reflection and anticipation. As the editors begin work on the 1999 issues of Southwest Art, I welcome your comments about what we’ve done this past year.

May your holidays be rich with joy.

Featured in “In the Studio” September 2002